A robust conversation at the Owyhee Town Hall in Adrian, Oregon

November 9, 2015

Rafts on Owyhee River, Photo Credit: Leon Werdinger

By Borden Beck, Oregon Chapter High Desert Committee


On October 29, I attended a Town Hall meeting in the small town of Adrian, Oregon, to share opinions and information about protecting the Owyhee Canyonlands. Adrian is the last small community before heading south into the vast expanse of the so far relatively undeveloped landscape that makes up the Owyhee. The meeting had been organized by state Rep. Cliff Bentz and was attended by about 500 people, including a slate of local officials and representatives from both Sen. Wyden’s and Rep Walden’s office.

While the majority of the attendees were undoubtedly locals from Malheur County, a good number of people also came from Bend, Boise, and even Portland, like me. I came as an individual, but also as one participating with the Sierra Club in the Owyhee Coalition, a group of nearly a dozen environmental and recreational organizations spearheading the effort to gain permanent protection for Oregon’s Owyhee Canyonlands.

The Owyhee Coalition has come up with a proposal to protect up to 2.5 million acres of this landscape with a mixture of Wilderness and National Conservation Area designations (see map of the proposal here). We are proposing this to be a legislated action, although similar protections could be achieved through a National Monument proclamation by President Obama’s administration in the event of congressional inaction.

The Owyhee region is perhaps the largest unroaded and undeveloped – and yet still unprotected – landscape in the lower 48 states and contains stunning geological formations, native cultural resources, critical wildlife habit, and unsurpassed recreation opportunities. It is also a long way from the rest of Oregon.

Adrian town hall; Photo Credit: Borden Beck

Adrian town hall; Photo Credit: Borden Beck

The Town Hall began with officials sharing their views briefly, and then Brent Fenty from ONDA (Oregon Natural Desert Association) presented the bones of the wilderness/NCA proposal that the Coalition has put forth. In addition to sharing reasons for protecting the landscape such as the very real threat of oil and gas exploration, he concisely tried to dispel misinformation about the proposal such as the notion of imagined road closures and grazing restrictions. The Coalition presentation was followed by a long session of brief public comments alternating between opponents and proponents of additional protection.

Those opposed to protection in general could be said to view the land as best protected by people living in the area – the “locals” – and that the region does not need any additional protection or government interference. They also are very fearful that some protected status will change their lifestyle and livelihood by restricting use, or “locking it up,” as they like to say.

Those in favor shared the benefits to some form of protection, such as the economic boost that increased recreation will provide (and has provided elsewhere with protective status), and of course we shared concerns about mining and increased off road vehicle use. We also shared the notion that these are in fact public lands that belong to everyone, not just the local community. I live in Oregon. I have all my life. I care deeply about the Owyhee region and am in love with it too. I deserve a say in how it is managed.

West Little Owyhee River Canyon; Photo Credit: Tim Neville

West Little Owyhee River Canyon; Photo Credit: Tim Neville

In general it is fair to say that this issue highlights the urban/rural divide we so often encounter in our state and elsewhere. It also highlights differing perceptions as to who should be allowed to make decisions about public lands management. And last, it brings out the deep disdain for the federal government that exists in some communities. There is clearly a lack of trust by local residents for both the federal government, as well as environmental organizations and those of us who advocate from Portland or Bend.

Where this lack of trust originates is complicated, but it does rest both in different values and experience, as well as misinformation spouted and believed. To go forth with this proposal, we will need to find a way encourage dialogue with local officials and residents who have been reluctant to do so, to engage in a process that will find some common or negotiated ground, something other than an all or none attitude. I stumbled into being the last person in favor to get called to speak and that was my attempted message – that we need to work together and that those unequivocally opposed to any form of protection will be left out of the conversation.

You can be part of this process by stepping up to take the time and call our U.S. Senators and ask him to take leadership to provide permanent protection for our Owyhee Canyonlands. We (the Owyhee Coalition) believe the time is NOW to encourage our senior Senator to act. Let him know you care enough to take action and that you believe we all have a say in how our public lands are managed. This landscape of the Owyhee deserves protection for future generations. Click here for our Senators’ phone contacts and a few talking points.

 The next day, Oregon Chapter Conservation Director Rhett Lawrence and I were able to accompany some of the Owyhee Coalition members for a short visit to Leslie Gulch in the Owyhee country to unwind (see photo below). If you have not been there, put it on your bucket list!

Owyhee Coalition at Leslie Gulch; Photo Credit: Borden Beck

Owyhee Coalition at Leslie Gulch; Photo Credit: Borden Beck

Clearcut 70% of our State Forests? Not the best idea!

October 29, 2015

On October 19th, a subcommittee of the Board of Forestry met to discuss alternative management plans for the Tillamook & Clatsop state forests.  Any new plan needs to improve conservation AND make the Department of Forestry financially viable. This ongoing process has been dominated by a timber industry proposal to manage the forest as two zones: 70% for industrial clearcutting and 30% for conservation.

The Board directed the Department to model this proposal and the results are…not good.

Conservation: Under the current plan, 51% of the forest is open to clearcutting, 18% is thinned to create complex forest habitat, roughly 27% is not logged because it buffers streams, provides habitat to endangered species, or is too steep. The remaining 4% is roads, campgrounds, rock quarries, and power-line right-of-ways.

Photo by Francis Eatherington

Industrial Timber Land (photo by Francis Eatherington)

The new model shows 69% of the forest open to private industrial style clearcutting, and 27% of the forest protected. This alone is a drastic reduction in conservation acres. On top of that, the private industrial model would have very negative impacts on habitat compared to the current plan, which leaves more standing live trees, standing dead trees, and downed wood. The industrial model also involves more aerial pesticide application.

See what the model looks like on the Tillamook district and on the Clatsop forest (Astoria district).

Financial Viability: 
It turns out that when you liquidate your asset by intensive clearcutting, the returns don’t last long. The model showed that the plan would pay for itself for about 25 years, after which costs far outpace revenue, leaving the Department worse off than it is now.Revenue vs. Costs

There are additional concerns. Based on district level groundtruthing, Department staff hinted that implementing this plan would result in less harvest than predicted. Moreover, there is a likelihood that counties and forest district would face drastic boom/bust cycles rather than steady, predictable income.

What’s next? Some timber industry modeling experts hope that there is more inventory than is currently assumed and that the forest will grow faster in the future with better stocks of wood. However, there is also reason to be pessimistic as the recent modeling didn’t account for likely forest disturbances such as wind storms or floods.

The Department is moving forward to refine their model, but so far it seems that a 70/30 fails to improve financial viability and drastically reduces conservation on our state forests.

Wilson River 2

#salmon, #orforest, #steelhead, #Tillamook, #Clatsop, #logging, #clearcut

Speak up for Oregon’s wolves!

September 21, 2015


You may have already heard the news: California is now home to its first known gray wolf pack, dubbed the Shasta Pack, in nearly a century! While biologists are working to determine the origin of the Shasta Pack’s breeding pair, the most likely answer is that they traveled from Oregon. With successful recovery in California dependent on wolves dispersing from Oregon, and the future of Oregon’s own wolf population up in the air, it is vital we make sure Oregon’s Fish and Wildlife Commission isn’t eliminating crucial protections for wolves.

There are currently 81 known wolves in Oregon, with only one pack residing in the Cascades – OR7’s own Rogue Pack. Despite this fledgling population, special interest groups are hard at work trying to convince the Commission that it needs to be easier to kill Oregon’s wolves. In the coming months, the Commission will be considering changes to how Oregon manages its gray wolf population, including whether to remove wolves from the state endangered species list.

Oregon’s current wolf management plan, emphasizing non-lethal management practices, is actually considered one of the most successful in the nation. But it is in danger of being disassembled before wolves can make a true recovery. It is not time for the Oregon Fish and Wildlfe Commission to declare “mission accomplished” and walk away from its commitment to Oregon’s wolves!

We need you to speak up for Oregon’s wolves!


  • Attend the Fish and Wildlife Commission’s Wolf Delisting Hearing

When: October 9th, 8am

Where: Driftwood Shores Resort and Conference Center, 88416 1st. Ave, Florence, Oregon

  • Send Comments to odfw.commission@state.or.us.  Be sure to include “Comments on Wolf Delisting Proposal” in the email subject line.

For further information or talking points for comments, contact Sierra Club volunteer Joanie Beldin (joanibldn@gmail.com) or Oregon Wild’s Stephanie Taylor (stephanie@oregonwild.org).

Gray wolves here and in California are counting on you!

Seize The Day; Save The Bay!

September 21, 2015

Save The Day

On September 26, there will be a rally in Coos Bay from Noon to 6:00 PM to help raise public awareness of the dangers posed by the proposed Jordon Cove LNG project. The family-friendly event is called “Seize the Day; Save the Bay!” and will highlight the clean environment of the bay and the damage to the environment that will occur if this massive fossil fuel project is approved.


Because of all of the hype around job creation and natural gas being a “bridge fuel to a clean energy future” it is critically important to bring public awareness to the reality of LNG export terminals.

The “Seize the Day; Save the Bay!” rally will give you a chance to let our elected officials know that this project and the similar one near Astoria are simply unacceptable and that the people of Oregon say:

  • NO to these morally bankrupt Canadian energy companies intent on making money while pushing Earth further towards ecological collapse
  • NO to taking both private and public property for corporate gain with no public benefit foreign corporations
  • NO to environmental destruction of our scenic coastal ecologies and fisheries
  • NO to living in a high risk blast zone
  • NO to sacrificing our timber resources

For an excellent overview of the proposed Jordan Cove Project go here.

Come on out and help build a better future for future generations of Oregonians.

Information on the Statewide No LNG Coalition which planned this event can be found here.

If you have any questions, please contact the Oregon Sierra Club’s Beyond Gas and Oil Team’s Co-Chair, Gregory Monahan, at gpmonahan3@gmail.com.

We are about to get FERC’d

September 15, 2015

The Federal Government Prepares to Bless a Catastrophic LNG Project –
Running from Canada to the Columbia

by Ted Gleichman

We are about to get FERC’d in Northwest Oregon and Western Washington. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is the agency responsible for awarding the key Federal permission for major fossil-fuels energy infrastructure projects. FERC is now preparing to approve the projects proposed by a hedge fund / conglomerate subsidiary named Oregon LNG: more than $6 billion of huge new natural gas pipelines feeding into a planned massive industrial plant to liquefy this gas for export to Asia.

LNG tanker

The Oregon LNG (OLNG) project set includes:

  • a pipeline from Canada all the way through Washington State to Woodland, where it would tunnel under the Columbia River for a mile into Columbia County, Oregon;
  • a linked pipeline running through Columbia and Clatsop counties to Warrenton, on Young’s Bay, adjacent to Astoria; and
  • a gigantic liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal on the Skipanon River peninsula in Warrenton, protruding into the Columbia River, with docking and LNG transfer facilities for tankers 20 stories tall, with the LNG stored in 19-story tall tanks.

FERC is holding legally-required hearings in Washington and Oregon, but let’s be clear: FERC is 100% funded by the industry, and they have never rejected a major fossil fuels infrastructure project. For protecting the interests of the people of Oregon, the United States, and the world, FERC is a sham, a fraud, and a rubber stamp for an industry rapidly destroying a livable planet.

So why should you consider coming to FERC hearings in Astoria on Monday, September 21, and in Vernonia on Tuesday, September 22? There are three reasons:

  • First and most importantly, we are building a mass movement of opposition, and we need to get to know each other and learn how to work together. If you can come to a hearing, wear red and sign in not just with FERC but also with the Statewide Anti-LNG Coalition organizing team.
  • Second, it is imperative that we show the media, the general public, and Oregon elected officials and agency staff who are watching these hearings closely, that we will not accept these dangerous, destructive projects. We can’t stop them through FERC, but we can through the State of Oregon if we build enough pressure.
  • Finally, it is also important to build a record of opposition, with citizens from all walks of life standing up to the Federal government to object – to use our First Amendment rights to petition for redress of grievances.

Here are a few key talking points you can use for the paltry three minutes FERC allows for members of the public to speak. Feel free to think of your three minutes of oral testimony as an executive summary and then turn in longer written testimony at the hearing, or mail it in afterwards.

The Truth about Fracked Gas and LNG exports:

  • Methane is a major source of global warming and climate disruption; LNG exports and fracked gas production are NOT “climate solutions.”
    – Methane, CH4, is the first hydrocarbon and the smallest hydrocarbon molecule. This miniscule molecule carries with it 86 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.
    – Because it is so small, it leaks throughout the supply chain: at the wellhead, in transmission and distribution pipelines, at compressor stations and processing plants, during liquefaction, during ocean going transit, in re-gasification in a foreign port, in overseas distribution, and in end-use facilities.
    – Atmospheric methane levels, like atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, are rising catastrophically, and we must reduce its extraction and use as quickly as possible.
  • Exporting LNG will increase natural gas costs for US households, businesses, and manufacturers, hurting our fragile economy.
    – Supply and demand is a straightforward concept: if major quantities of a commodity are removed from a marketplace and shipped overseas, domestic prices will go up. Natural gas is the most versatile fossil fuel and holds the most complex role in our economy of any fossil fuel.
    – Although we must quickly reduce and eventually eliminate its use for all but perhaps a few specialized manufacturing needs, for now the major urgent requirement is to protect it from corporate export exploitation and keep it in the ground.
  • Corporate power to take property rights with eminent domain and anti-democracy corporate trade powers like the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership abuse the public trust.
    – Eminent domain was designed as a Constitutional provision by our nation’s founders to provide for fair compensation to landowners losing land for the public good. No public good has been demonstrated. For a multinational corporation to take family farms, woodlands, and homes as well as public forests for private profit through foreign export is a gross violation of the public interest.
    – And corporate trade deals that remove the right of the public to be represented by our governmental agencies and U.S. courts are a clear assault on sovereignty and basic American rights.
  • Toxic fracking irreversibly damages community water and land.
    – Industry-secret toxic fracking fluids permanently pollute underground formations with cracks and channels that often link to aquifers and eventually to the surface. Fracking lubricates stressed rock formations and has been proven to cause earthquakes.
    – The mixed gaseous hydrocarbons coming from the fracking wells are mostly methane, but also include butane, propane, ethanes, carbon dioxide, radon, mercury, and other toxins. Especially dangerous for land pollution is “produced water”: permanently polluted water that comes to the surface with the wellhead gases, and then must be disposed of somehow.
    – Fracking zones throughout the U.S. are already permanently damaged from this toxic brew.
  • Siting explosive, toxic facilities on the Oregon coast, guaranteed to suffer the most catastrophic earthquake and tsunami in US history, is outrageous and must not be allowed.
    – The earthquake from the Cascadia Subduction Zone that will hit Warrenton-Astoria will be a Magnitude 9 and generate a tsunami that could be 10 stories tall or more. It has a one-third chance of hitting within the 50-year lifespan of the OLNG plant.
    – No explosive tanker, LNG storage tank, or pipeline can be guaranteed to withstand such force. It will be the mirror image of the Japanese Tohoku-Fukushima earthquake and tsunami of 2011. Check out what the State of Oregon says about seismic hazards here.
  • Communities all along pipelines suffer air and water pollution and risk constant danger from explosive pipeline failures.
    – Pipelines and LNG processing plants always leak, sooner or later, and are at constant risk of catastrophic leaks and explosive failure. In the forest zones of Columbia and Clatsop counties, a pipeline rupture during fire season would create a massive conflagration.
    – When the earthquake hits, the 40-foot sections of the pipeline will rupture at every joint, and then the metal edges will rub and spark for several minutes. This would create a 90-mile line of wildfire across Northwest Oregon at a time when the First Responders are already completely overwhelmed.
    – The reverse is also a serious risk: a natural wildfire can heat and fracture a gas pipeline, even under a clearcut, burning through root systems or heating from above with a flaming tree falling across the pipeline path.
    – Running an explosive pipeline through forests experiencing severe, larger, and more frequent wildfires is a formula for disaster.
  • Jobs that damage our climate are not “good jobs”; we need clean, sustainable renewable energy and earthquake/tsunami protection jobs.
    – We need to rebuild our coastal and inland infrastructure to provide resilience against the coming earthquake, and we need an urgent complete transition to a green energy economy, where renewables, efficiency, and conservation eliminate the CO2 pollution that is rapidly overheating our oceans and atmosphere.
    – Genuine good jobs can be created and funded here and now! It’s up to us to build the political will for new ways to build economic health.

If you cannot attend a hearing and want to submit written testimony, or if you want to expand on your hearing testimony, the FERC deadline to accept additional information and comments is October 6. You can see instructions for submitting comments at http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2015/08/f25/EIS-0492-DEIS-2015.pdf.

The Bottom Line:

The Oregon LNG plans are essentially a criminal enterprise, aiming at locking in a long-term export plan for fracked gas that would constitute double the amount used now by all the households, businesses, and manufacturers in Oregon. Our state, our nation, and our planet cannot withstand this assault. They must be stopped, and we would be honored to have your help. Thank you!


Ted Gleichman is Co-chair of Oregon Sierra Club Beyond Gas & Oil Team and a member of the National Strategy Team for Sierra Club’s Stop Dirty Fuels Initiative. You can reach Ted at ted.gleichman@oregon.sierraclub.org or 503-781-2498.

A Reinvigorated Battle Cry for the Climate by Jessie Bond

August 13, 2015

For years, conversations around global warming have been volleying back and forth between dire predictions and outright denial. Most of the discussion has centered on scientific data and the economic impact of dealing with climate change. But the plea to protect our planet from the worst effects of rising temperatures has not fully resonated because most people have been overlooking an important human motivator: our own morality.

Until now. In May, Pope Francis took a stand and brought the climate change conversation to a new global level. In a 184-page encyclical, the Pope delivered a powerful critique on modern life. He addressed not only the fact that humans have contributed to the degradation of our planet but that we have a moral responsibility to our own and other species. He called for a sweeping “cultural revolution,” and among the many pages offered some guidance for every government, community, and individual. This call to action sparked a renewed energy to confront climate change and the enormous ecological, economic, and social imbalances that are root causes of the crisis.

Many cities across the globe are heeding this call and beginning to roll out plans to combat climate change at the local level. In fact, in the wake of the Pope’s statement, the Portland City Council and Multnomah County Commissioners unanimously voted to adopt the joint 2015 Climate Action Plan. This continues a 20-year legacy: Portland was the first city in the United States to create a plan for cutting carbon in 1993. Total carbon emissions in the U.S. have risen since the 1990s, but Portland’s emissions have actually declined by 14%, while its population has increased by almost a third.

The updated joint city-county plan is intended to strengthen the local effort to reduce carbon emissions by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050. This is the level experts feel is needed worldwide to prevent devastating climate disruption from global warming.

Issues of equity and justice, which have largely been missing from the global climate conversation as Pope Francis points out, are finally getting serious consideration. The city-county plan, which was developed with the help of an equity working group, reflects this. Along with minimizing fossil fuel use, the plan focuses on ensuring that all city and county residents benefit from climate action.

At the Sierra Club we know that ensuring a livable climate for everyone is the biggest challenge of our age. The Oregon Chapter is working to educate the public, mobilize communities, and support the growing and thriving climate movement, and there are many ways you can get involved:

  • Find out what the joint city-county action plan means for Portland and Multnomah County at our Third Thursday event: Our Climate, Our Future: the Portland/Multnomah County Climate Action Plan at 6:30 p.m. at the Sierra Club office.
  • Hear what local faith leaders have to say about the moral implications of the climate crisis and how to build powerful coalitions at our Third Thursday event: Acting on Faith: The Moral Imperative of the Climate Crisis at 6:30 p.m. at the Sierra Club office.
  • Support our Protect State Forests campaign. We are fighting to preserve the Clatsop and Tillamook State Forests, which, as part of the Pacific Northwest temperate forest range, store much of the carbon on the planet.
  • Find out about our new You CAN Corvallis training for youth climate activists to push the Corvallis City Council to pass a climate action plan with significant greenhouse gas emissions targets.

Leaders like Pope Francis remind us that we can better build resilient communities only when everyone is included. It’s the shared human responsibility as Carl Sagan wrote, “to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot.” Taking a moral stand in being good and decent to others and to our world is what is going to help us and other species survive.

Hart Mountain

August 13, 2015
Recently, a group of 10 desert enthusiasts, led by Sierra Club High Desert Committee members, visited the Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge in south-central Oregon. Hart Mountain is a conservation success story, and it was exciting to see how DSC_0052this area has come back to ecological health since grazing was removed  from the refuge nearly twenty years ago and management practices changed. At that time, the antelope population was struggling due to the damage done to the landscape by grazing and fire suppression. Once cattle were removed and prescribed burns started, the landscape, and antelope numbers, have returned to healthy levels. The fires and removing the cattle allowed forbes, herbaceous plants that the antelope depend on, to rejuvenate. This was evident on our hikes, as we were treated to vast stretches of wildflowers, including a hilltop swathed in fragrant lupine. We felt like Dorothy in a poppy field in Oz!
Please help the Sierra Club protect other fragile high desert ecosystems in Oregon. The High Desert Committee currently is working on a campaign to permanently protect 2.5 million acres of wilderness-quality lands in the Owyhee Canyonlands, DSC_0018which is in the far southeast corner of Oregon. Please take a minute to sign the petition at http://wildowyhee.org/act/sign-the-petition_sierra_club, join us on an outing (see our offerings at http://oregon2.sierraclub.org/chapter/high-desert-outings)  or attend one of our monthly meetings to see what we are working on. The High Desert Committee meets on the first Wednesday of every month at 6:30 pm for a potluck, with the meeting starting at 7:00 pm.
Heidi Dahlin


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